Doug and Lynn Nodland

Doug and Lynn Nodland

We’re sure you’ve heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. Maybe you sang that lyrical message yourself as a child. Many moms, dads and caregivers passed that message along to little ones. They wanted to encourage children to be tough and to turn-the-other-cheek. However, there’s a problem with that saying – it’s just not true! Actually, the words that are spoken to us and the ones we speak, can be very hurtful and the wounds can remain long after the words are spoken.

What’s surprising is that we may say these words often, without even realizing it. If we consider ourselves to be kind and caring, maybe we don’t say hurtful words to others very often. However, we might be saying hurtful words to ourselves all day long. We may be slipping in messages like, “I’m too fat” or “I’m so stupid,” or “I can’t do it.”

These quick phrases may seem harmless, but they’re not – they’re words that hurt and cause harm. Hurtful words can negatively affect our physiology, while loving words can heal.

Masaru Emoto, a Japanese researcher, believed that human consciousness and words had an effect on people’s mind and body. He had an experiment using three jars of rice. Each day, for 30 days, the first jar received loving verbal messages, the next jar was given hateful verbal messages and the third jar was ignored. After a month, the “love” jar gave off a pleasant fermentation smell. The “hate” jar had spots of mold and the “ignored” jar was disgusting. Googling “the rice experiment”, you’ll also see many non-scientists who tried the same experiment which generally yielded the same results as Emoto.

Emoto’s studies are criticized by scientists as being “scientifically flawed”. However, no matter how flawed his studies might be, Emoto’s conclusions, that words do matter, are sound and logical. He felt that children should be spoken to in loving ways and that, no matter what the age of the person, words are powerful and can hurt or heal. This reminds us of a quote: “You can change the course of your life with your words.” Anonymous

Several years ago, we had Dr. Daniel Amen, noted psychiatrist and neuroscientist, speak at a conference we organized. Dr. Amen originated the term Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS). He said, “Every time you have a sad, hopeless, mad, cranky, unkind, judgmental or helpless thought, your brain immediately releases chemicals that make you feel awful.”

Those awful feelings can also happen when hurtful words are spoken. Some of the symptoms include cold, clammy hands, tense muscles, shallow breathing and faster heartbeat. Brain activity in frontal and temporal lobes is decreased which negatively affects learning, memory and judgment. We need to be watchful and “exterminate” the ANTS!

The good news is that when you have positive thoughts that are loving and hopeful, your brain releases chemicals that help you feel good. Hands get warmer and dryer. You can breathe more deeply, muscles relax, and blood pressure decreases. Dr. Amen says then “your brain works better.” Positive loving words help you feel better, whether you hear them from someone else or they are your own words to yourself.

If you want to change how you talk to yourself and use more positive words, here are some ways that can help.

Choose your predictions carefully: You can predict the worst and it will not help you, so predict the most positive result. Example: “There’s no way I can do that.” vs “I am smart and strong and I can do it!”

Don’t assume: Don’t assume negative about what someone is thinking. Do assume positive and clarify if necessary. Example: “I know they don’t like me.” vs “If they knew me, they would like me.”

Avoid negative labels: Don’t label yourself or others negatively. We’re all human, so be kind to yourself and others. Example: “I’m a quitter.” vs “I know I can finish if I keep going and get help when needed.”

Get rid of guilt: Don’t beat yourself up for the past. Example: “I feel so guilty for my past.” vs “I’ve learned from my mistakes and won’t do them again.”

Stop blaming others: Own your choices. Example: “It’s your fault I’m failing.” vs “I can make changes and be successful.”

What about you? Do you speak words that hurt or heal? Remember, words are powerful. We can change our lives and the lives of others with our words. We encourage you to choose your words wisely so you can avoid hurting and instead promote healing.

Chanhassen residents Doug and Lynn Nodland are success coaches and owners of The Balance Center in Excelsior. Contact them: More information and videos are at